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Hot water bottle

Hot water bottles like these were used to warm up beds, or as hand and feet warmers on long journeys in chilly horse-drawn coaches or trains. Unlike the rubber hot water bottles of today, these were made from a kind of ceramic called ‘stoneware’. They were filled with water, heated in a kettle on the kitchen range (cooker) and were often wrapped in an old towel or placed inside a specially knitted woollen jacket to avoid people burning themselves when they got into bed.

Hot water bottle, c.1900

In large houses, servants would use these to warm up the beds for their masters and mistresses. Warming pans or bedwarmers were also used. These were large copper pans with a very long handle, filled with hot coals from the fire. The pan was slid under the sheets and moved around constantly to warm up the cold sheets without scorching them. After making everything warm and cosy for her employers, a maid would then often have to sleep in a freezing cold bed.

Image courtesy of Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum